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Lo Chay

Lo Chay

Co-founder 1001fontaines

BACKGROUND / Academic and professional background

I was born in a small village in north-western Cambodia and attended school in Phnom Penh through the support of a French scholarship program, Enfants du Mekong. I graduated from the Cambodian Institute of Technology in rural engineering and went on to study in France, receiving my Master’s as an Engineer of Water Management from l’Ecole Nationale du Génie Rural des Eaux et des Forêts (ENGREF). During my time at ENGREF, I was trained on many small-scale drinking water network projects, which led to my design of a pilot project in Cambodia and subsequently to the creation of 1001 fontaines in September 2004.
In July 2007, I created a local NGO, called “Teuk Saat 1001”. Teuk Saat 1001 has been engaged since 2007 in Cambodia in cooperation with 1001fontaines, where it has developed an end-to-end project including the installation of small water kiosks run by local entrepreneurs with a social business approach using low cost technology to provide safe water at an affordable price to the poorest populations, as well as targeted support to build entrepreneurial capacities, achieve auto-financing and raise communities’ awareness of water issues.

ACHIEVEMENT/ What is your project, initiative, start-up, company all about?

Today, around 750 million people in the world lack access to safe drinking water, 80% of them living in rural communities. Over the last few years, water kiosks have emerged as an innovative market-based approach with an estimated compound impact of 7-10 million beneficiaries. Kiosks rely on a sustainable business model and ensure long-term health impact for the poorest populations in villages. Yet, we are just at the beginning of the journey and all kiosk-based organisations are confronted with similar challenges in their path to economic scale and sustainable growth: distribution models, social marketing, entrepreneurial skills…
Since its creation in 2004, 1001fontaines has been dedicated to giving communities living in remote areas the opportunity to produce safe drinking water locally for their own consumption via the creation of local social enterprises. The three pillars of the 1001fontaines model are water quality, accessibility (including affordability for beneficiaries) and sustainability.

LOCATION/ In which city, country, part of the world do you conduct your activities?

The project was initilally launched in Cambodia in 2005. Projects have since been set up in 14 provinces across Cambodia.
In 2008 the co-founders of 1001fontaines decided to test the replicability of the initiative in a new country. A pilot project was launched on the East coast of Madagascar where 10 stations are currently operating. Our ambition is to set up a network of 25 stations and 1 local platform by 2018.
In 2013, a pilot project was also launched in West Bengal, India with the support of the local NGO Sulabh International. 4 stations were set up and have started selling water to villagers. The results of this pilot project will determine whether a larger scale deployment will be considered in the coming years.

IMPACT/ What is the positive economic, social, political, environmental…of your activity, project, initiative, start-up, company?

As of July 2014, we have a proven market-based model with 118 sites run by 300 local entrepreneurs operating in Cambodia, providing safe drinking water to 227,000 beneficiaries (172,000 customers and 55,000 children at school). We have achieved strong recognition in Cambodia among key WASH organisations (UNICEF, World Vision …) and by the Ministry of Rural Development. We operate in areas where people earn on average less than $500 per year (lowest level of BoP). We have established long-term strategic partnerships with Danone and Accenture. In addition, epidemiological impact studies conducted by Paul R. Hunter (Professor of Health Protection at the University of East Anglia) have provided statistical evidence of the positive impact of our project on the health. In 2012, two health studies were conducted to measure the impact of 1001fontaines safe drinking water on the health of children.
Two populations were observed,

  • children between 6 and 12 at school where attendance at school was measured
  • children under 5 within their families for whom episodes of diarrhea diseases were reported and correlated to the water source used by the family

The first study demonstrated that absenteeism was reduced by 55 to 75% for the children drinking 1001fontaines water at school. The second study showed that – as an alternative to piped systems which are the safest source but which cannot be deployed widely in rural areas for investment cost reasons – two water sources were associated with reduced childhood diarrhea: rainwater harvesting and 1001fontaines. Other water sources (groundwater, surface water) showed a probability of getting ill 33 to 62% higher. The detailed results of these two studies were published (links below).
1. PLOS ONE, “Impact of the Provision of Safe Drinking Water on School Absence Rates in Cambodia: a quasi-experimental study”, Paul R Hunter, Helen Risebro, Marie Yen, Hélène Lefebvre, Chay Lo, Philippe Hartemann, Christophe Longuet, François Jaquenoud
2. BMC Public Health, “Water source and diarrhoeal disease risk in children under 5 years old in Cambodia: a prospective diary based study”, Paul R Hunter, Helen Risebro, Marie Yen, Hélène Lefebvre, Chay Lo, François Jaquenoud and others
Impact of the Provision of Safe Drinking Water on School Absence Rates in Cambodia: A Quasi-Experimental Study

QUOTE/ A saying, quote or reference phrase that tells something about you

The Dream become True with the Entrepreneurial Model and Team spirit.